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    Wayne Gray
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Ash and Ember - 26. A Spark and a Leap

27 February 2019, Wednesday 10:25 a.m.

Hating the attention, Sandra found herself in a wheelchair with an airport employee who was now responsible for getting her onboard and safely tucked into her seat in First Class.

"I'm sure my husband can manage it," she said, with more bite to her tone than she'd intended, as the young man helped William get her into the wheelchair.

The fellow now looked nervous, and William stepped in. "Sandra, let the man do his job." He nodded at the airline worker, and soon they were all three on the way to their departure gate.

It wasn't that Sandra didn't appreciate the effort people spent on her, it was that she despised needing the help. William understood that, but others likely didn't. Sandra bit her tongue for the rest of the process, allowing William to take the lead. She knew he would get the job done, and ruffle fewer feathers in the process than she could.

Soon enough she was onboard and safely buckled in. William was at her side, smiling at her. "Are you comfortable? Do you need anything?" Putting a hand on her leg, he flinched. She knew the muscles there were beginning to thin and atrophy. The lack of full contractions, thanks to the nerve damage, meant they were shrinking.

"I'm fine, dear." In truth she was cold, but she could see the sheen of sweat on William's face. It was easy to see that he was hot, and the fact that she wasn't would be a point of worry for him. She didn't want him to worry about her any more than he already did.

Looking her straight in the eye, he rejected what she'd told him. "Your leg is freezing." He stood up in the aisle and stopped the flow of first-class passengers. He motioned at a nearby attendant. "Excuse me. Can you get a blanket for my wife?"

William simply took command. Sandra never thought it could happen - that he had it in him. True, she loved and adored him. But as time went on, she found a new emotion which described her feelings for William - respect.

That was different. He showed himself to be a coolly competent man if only allowed to grow into the role. He had turned into a formidable ally and advocate for her. For the first time in her life, she felt as if she had a partner. That William was not merely a man under her employment, who also happened to be her husband, but instead, that they were a team. It was no longer her vineyard, it was theirs.

Taking the blanket given to him, he gently wrapped Sandra's legs with the soft, warm material. She watched him as he did. He acted as if he were a professional at whatever he did, and his attentiveness never wavered. He finished and sat back down next to her. "Better?"

Sandra nodded. "Yes. Thank you."

The plane soon filled to capacity. Sandra looked out of the window as the aircraft began to taxi to the runway for take off. As the final checks on the machine occurred just before they were to accelerate to leave the grip of the Earth, William took her hand in his own.

"You know, I'm really proud of you, Sandra."

She turned to look at him. William stared back at her, his brown eyes honest and unguarded. Sandra shook her head. "Why?"

William smiled in such a purely happy way. "Because our son got to hug his mom yesterday." William silently teared but his expression didn't change. "I always knew she was there, but I'm not sure Grant knew she still existed."

Sandra swallowed, struggling to hold back the rawness of her emotions. She couldn't take that remarkable and mesmerizing gaze of William's, so she turned her face toward the window. She thought about what he'd said. With her face still pointed away, she quietly asked, "Am I really so awful?"

"Awful? No." William's hand gently squeezed hers. "You're strong. You're amazing. You're talented and intelligent." He reached up and put a hand, warm and caring, on the back of her neck. "And now, you're showing our son how much he means to you. It's what he needs. And it's what you need. That's why I'm proud of you. I know it's scary for you to show him this side. But you are. And I love you for it."

Sandra didn't respond verbally; she didn't know if she could. Instead, she squeezed the hand that still rested in her lap. She continued to look out of the window at the world, until it became a blur of color, light, and shadow, as they streaked up into the sky.

 

28 February 2019, Thursday 8:17 p.m.

Grant watched Troy as the tall man paced. His friend, Beth, had called an hour ago. She was close, and she should arrive any minute now. Wednesday morning, when Grant had gotten up for work, Troy had filled him in on Beth's impending visit.

Thanks to a late season snow storm in Pennsylvania, she was delayed a few hours. But it had allowed her to take a break and get some sleep. As it was, she'd driven nearly eighteen hours straight to get to them.

"Troy, calm down." Grant smiled at him. "You're winding yourself up. Relax." Grant patted the seat on the couch next to him. "Come on, sit down."

With a shake of his head, Troy bit his lip. "I'm fine." Grant almost laughed as Troy unconsciously wrung his hands. "I'm just excited, you know? It has been so long. I just want everything to …"

At the knock on the door, Troy froze. Then he jerked and took two giant steps down the hallway to the door. Shaking his head, Grant stood up.

Troy opened the door. A woman, bundled from the falling snow, stood in the doorway.

"Beth!" Troy flung his arms around her and lifted her off of her feet.

She laughed and coughed as he squeezed her. "Put, -wheeze- put me down!"

Troy did, and she caught her breath with a laugh. She dropped her two bags to give Troy a hug of her own. "Oh, damn. It's so good to see you!"

Grant smiled and waited. Troy pushed back, looking at her, almost as if he couldn't quite believe she was there in front of him. Finally, Grant cleared his throat, and Troy looked down the hall at him, his eyes widening. "Oh!" He pushed Beth down the hall toward Grant. "Beth, this is my boyfriend, Grant. Grant, this is Beth, John's sister."

The woman smiled. She extended one hand to Grant while pulling off her scarf with the other. "It's very nice to meet you, Grant."

Grant shook her hand and grinned. "Likewise. I can take your scarf and coat."

"Thank you." She gave the items to Grant and took a relieved breath as she looked around the room. "Wow. I never thought I'd see this little house again."

Troy stepped up beside her. "I know. Same here."

Leveling a gaze at him, Beth asked, "You gonna tell me about all of that? About where you disappeared to, and how you came to live back in the place you started?"

Nodding, Troy motioned at the couch. "Yes. Here, let's sit, and I'll tell you all about it."

The two took seats on the couch, and Grant stepped into the kitchen. "I'm going to make some hot chocolate. And there might be peppermint schnapps for anybody who wants some."

"Oh, Troy! You need to hang on to this man!" Beth held up her hand, apparently interested in hot chocolate with schnapps. Troy grinned and nodded at Grant.

Grant got busy preparing the drinks in the kitchen while the two of them caught up. Periodically, Grant heard Beth ask various questions about Troy's life after John died, and in particular after the bank took the house and he'd disappeared.

Finishing with the drinks, Grant put a dollop of whipped cream on top of all of them. Then he walked carefully with all three mugs in his hands.

Beth looked up from Troy and gratefully took a mug. "Oh yes. Now, this looks like a fine cup of hot chocolate." She smiled, her teeth perfect. "Thank you, Grant."

"You're welcome." Grant handed Troy his drink, then he sat in the armchair near the couch. "I'm glad you made it okay. The roads aren't the best right now."

"Ugh, you're tellin' me!" She waved her hand toward the front door. "And my little tiny Kia isn't the best for ice and snow either!"

Troy and Beth continued to talk. It was well after eleven p.m. when the number of yawns got to the point where they made it difficult to continue.

Beth stood up with a smile, sleepy but happy. "Boys, thank you for havin' me." She nodded. "I truly do appreciate it."

"Of course." Grant smiled and motioned at the stairs. "Your room is the first bedroom. If you need anything just let us know."

"Will do." She picked up her two bags. "I'll see you both tomorrow." She winked at Grant. "Though, I hope you won't be offended if I don't get up to see you off for work."

Grant laughed. "No, I won't be offended."

She grinned. "G'night fellas."

Beth took her bags upstairs, and they heard the bedroom door shut. Troy looked at Grant and slowly smiled.

Grant laughed. "What is that smile for?"

Troy shook his head. "It's just amazing to me." He looked back up the stairs toward the closed door. "She's almost exactly as I remember - a little more mature, a little older. That's nice to see." His expression turned wistful. "I should have done this a long time ago - contacted her, that is."

Grant stifled a yawn and put his arm around Troy's shoulders. "Well, she's here now." He shook Troy gently back and forth. "Come on. Let's go to bed. You two can spend all day tomorrow together since you rescheduled your jobs to next week."

Troy nodded. "Yeah." He put his arm around Grant. "I'm looking forward to it."

The two men walked side by side up the stairs. As they passed the closed guest room door, a raucous snore could be heard from the room.

Troy laughed, his hand over his mouth as Grant stared in amazement at the door. Troy bit his lip, and he shook his head. "Nope. Not changed at all."

 

01 March 2019, Friday 4:51 p.m.

Grant finished out his work week. After the emotional rollercoaster with his mother, he had a sincere and deep need for some social time and fun with friends. Additionally, Beth wanted to see the whole crew again. She had met Brian, Natalie, Aaron, and Georgette a few times over the years that John and Troy had lived in the house, and she was very excited to hear about a gathering which included them.

Beth had planned to spend a week with them, and Grant was happy to have her. He knew Troy was beyond thrilled to reconnect, and Grant was curious about the man that Troy had detailed in the journal. His little sister was a great window into who John was.

Grant had told Rhett early the morning before about his plan for a party, and Rhett seemed very excited. "Another game night?" Rhett's smile reached all the way to his eyes. "Yeah. That sounds amazing. The same folks, right?"

"Yeah. Oh, and Troy's friend from Georgia, Beth." Grant watched Rhett's face. He knew the man struggled with new people in certain settings, and he didn't want Rhett surprised to find someone he didn't know there.

Rhett did pause a moment, but he nodded. "Okay. Cool. Yeah, count me in!"

Grant, Troy, and despite their protests, Beth, all prepared for the arrival of their guests. Beth refused to sit around while the guys cooked and cleaned. "I know I'm the picture of 'strong woman,' but I still know how to operate a stove!" She grinned at Grant as she slid a baking dish of new potatoes topped with a spice-rubbed chicken breast into the oven.

Predictably, there was a knock on the door about ten minutes before they were set to begin.

"That'll be Aaron." Wiping his hands on the towel over his shoulder, Troy started for the door.

"Here, let me." Beth smirked. She walked down the hall and opened the door.

Grant heard Aaron's surprised voice. "Beth! Oh my god!" Beth's response was cut off in a huff of air as the wiry redhead lifted her up in a hug.

Laughing, she smacked her palms against Aaron's shoulders. "Put me down!" After a moment Aaron did.

Georgette smiled at her. "Beth, it's great to see you!" The women hugged, and Beth pushed back to look critically at her. Georgette laughed. "Yes, I'm pregnant."

"Oh, finally! I know you were both trying for a long time!" There was a little celebration between the two, and then the group moved into the living room. Aaron took their bag of snacks into the kitchen. While the ladies talked, he started unpacking goat cheese, olives, crackers, and pickles.

Grant leaned over and snagged a green olive. He smiled at Aaron. "Hey. How's it going?"

Aaron grinned. "It's good." He nodded at Beth as she waved her hands around and spoke to Georgette. "It's great to see Beth!" His eyes found Troy where he stood near Beth and Georgette. "Troy decided it was time to reconnect?"

Grant nodded. "Yeah. As soon as he contacted her, she dropped everything and drove straight here." He smiled at the group. "It's obvious she means a lot to him, and the other way around too. I'm thankful he has wonderful people in his life."

Smiling, Aaron nodded, then looked at Grant. "You know, that includes you. It's good to see him getting taken care of, man."

Grant laughed. "I don't know about that. Lately, he has been the one to take care of me."

"That's what it's all about." Aaron nodded and patted Grant on the back. Narrowing his eyes as Grant picked up a cracker and some cheese, Aaron chuckled. "Are you going to let me take this into the living room, or are you gonna eat it all before I can even serve it?"

Grant smirked. "Fine." Aaron smiled, obviously joking with him, then took the serving platter into the living room to put it on the coffee table.

Another knock came at the door, and Grant walked around the bar counter. He opened the door.

Natalie, Brian, and Rhett all stood outside. They'd arrived at the same time and all grinned at him.

"Hey!" Grant stood aside. "Come on in, all of you."

Stomping off the wet and mud, they wiped their shoes on the welcome mat. Then, after some hugs and greetings, they entered.

"Beth!" Natalie's eyes widened when she saw the woman speaking to the group. Soon, both she and Brian were smiling and laughing along with her.

Grant watched them, then he looked over at Rhett.

Rhett stared at Beth for a moment, then he looked down at the ground. Grant could see the stress on his face. Grant stepped next to the small man and put a hand on his back. "Hey. Let me introduce you."

Rhett's eyes found Grant's and he nodded. "Okay." He took a breath and seemed to steel himself. "Let's do it."

 

01 March 2019, Friday 5:02 p.m.

The reassuring hand on his back helped, and Rhett stepped forward.

He watched as she laughed with the group, and as old connections strengthened once again. Then she turned her eyes on him.

They were a stunning light brown color, and they contrasted with her smooth, dark skin. She stood an inch taller than Rhett, at five-six. She was neither fat nor thin, but somewhere in a comfortable, healthy middle. Her black hair was cut into a short, yet feminine style, and it framed her face perfectly.

Rhett had what he was going to say in his head. He'd repeated it over and over before they stepped up to greet her. But it was gone. He stared at her, and the moment lengthened.

For her part, Beth blinked, then she smiled at him. "Hello." She held out her hand. "I'm Beth."

Rhett was on what he liked to call 'socially acceptable autopilot.' He reached and took her hand. "I'm Rhett."

Her hand was warm, and contact with her seemed to fire a part of his brain that didn't often see use. Wetting his dry lips, he nodded toward the kitchen. "Ah. I'm going to grab a glass of water." He still held her hand, and still looked into her eyes. "Did uh, did you want anything?"

Her smile broadened. "Why, thank you. A glass of red wine would be lovely."

"Okay." He forced himself to release her. "I'll, uh, I'll be right back."

He turned and walked toward the kitchen. On the way, he looked over his shoulder to see her watching him. Rhett nearly crashed into the kitchen bar, but he managed to avoid sprawling on the kitchen floor and making a fool of himself. Standing inside the kitchen, he hid behind the wall cabinet out of view of the living room.

Taking a moment to steady himself, he grabbed a bottle of wine off of the mounted wine rack in the kitchen.

Wine sounds good right about now. Chuckling to himself, he opened the bottle. Then he poured two glasses of wine, immediately taking a long drink from one of them.

He set the glass back on the counter and refilled it. Okay. He tried to relax. Okay. The lady is waiting for her wine. Don't hide in here.

Rhett nodded to himself, convincing his feet to move. He walked, glasses in hand, back into the living room.

 

01 March 2019, Friday 5:11 p.m.

Grant watched as Rhett came back into the living room. At first, he thought perhaps Rhett was merely shy and awkward around Beth due to his anxiety, but as he saw them interact he realized it was more than that.

Rhett likes her. Grant sipped his own drink, standing a few feet away with Brian and Troy as they talked. He glanced over at Beth and Rhett again, and they remained close together. He saw Beth look away after Rhett handed her the wine, a small smile on her face. Oh, and Beth likes him. It was apparent to him, as plain as if they had announced it. Rhett's eyes were focused, interested, and there was an intensity to them that Grant typically saw when Rhett talked about something that he found passion in.

Beth smiled as she replied. Grant was amazed by her. It was almost as if she could sense Rhett's personality and his preferences, and she dialed her boisterousness down for him. It was still Beth, but she was instinctively easing Rhett into getting to know her. Grant did something similar when he interacted with new people, but Beth was in deep conversation with a man who suffered from social anxiety, and they had only just met.

Catching Grant's eye, Troy nodded. "Excuse me." Grant peeled off, and Troy followed him, leaving Brian to nibble on appetizers.

Grant and Troy went into the kitchen. Once at the bar counter where they could look into the living room, but away from the ears of the others, Troy leaned toward him. "I think Beth might want a piece of Rhett." He grinned at Grant and glanced back into the living room. At that moment, Beth laughed at something Rhett said, and she put a hand on his shoulder, while the other held her half-empty wine glass.

"I think the feeling is mutual." Grant took another sip, and he followed Troy's gaze. Beth chose that moment to look toward the kitchen, to see both men staring at them. Rhett's back was to the guys. Beth smiled, just slightly, then she looked back to Rhett.

"We totally got caught." Troy chuckled and put an arm around Grant's shoulders.

"Yup. Beth doesn't seem too worried about it, though." Grant smiled at Troy. "Come on. Dinner should be done. I'll pull it out, and they can serve themselves."

Dinner was indeed finished. While Grant handled that, Troy got stacks of plates down for the group. Soon, everyone amicably lined up, assembly-line style. After they had gotten their food, the friends sat around the coffee table. Grant noticed the group saved a couple of spots on the couch. He looked at Brian and Natalie as they scooted down for Rhett and Beth. Brian winked at Grant. It appeared that Rhett's and Beth's interest wasn't lost on the friends.

Grant settled on one of the kitchen chairs he'd taken into the living room. He looked over at Georgette who had parked herself in the overstuffed armchair. She looked almost as if she would burst as she watched Beth and Rhett. Aaron sat next to her in another kitchen chair, leaning over to whisper in her ear. Grant nearly laughed. Aaron was clearly counseling her against announcing to the world how cute of a couple Beth and Rhett would make.

Grant sighed. He was happy, amused, and the stress of the last few days let up a bit. It was still there, and it would be, but the time with friends helped.

"Doing good?"

Grant looked over at Troy, who was gazing at him. "I am." His eyes swept over the room. "It's good to have everyone over, and to relax a little."

With a smile, Troy rubbed Grant's neck affectionately. He leaned and kissed Grant on the side of his face. Troy's beard rubbed against the skin there, and Grant grinned at the sensation. "Good. I'm glad." He picked up his fork, and he speared a crispy potato on his plate that rested on his lap.

Grant followed Troy's lead, and soon all of the friends chatted and ate. It wasn't long before they finished with dinner, and Rhett stood up.

"I'll handle dishes." He held out his hand for plates. "I wasn't able to bring anything, so it's the price I pay."

Beth wiped her mouth. "Oh, let me help." Rhett didn't decline, and when the two had left the living room, all of the friends looked at one another.

Rolling his eyes, Aaron gently squeezed his wife. "Okay, say it, but quietly."

"OH MY GOD, THEY ARE SO CUTE!" Georgette said, her voice a harsh whisper. There were laughs from the friends but nods too.

Conversation sparked again among them as they moved the kitchen chairs back into their proper spots and helped clean up the living room. When Grant went into the kitchen with his chair, he looked over at Rhett and Beth where they stood at the sink. Their shoulders almost touched, and he was certain each could feel the body heat of the other.

Grant forced himself to leave the kitchen. As he turned to go, he let his lips pull into a smile.

 

01 March 2019, Friday 8:46 p.m.

The evening wasn't precisely winding down for the group, but it had moved from games to talking and catching up.

Troy watched Beth and Rhett. He had known her to date, and he thought that he knew her tastes. So it was a little bit of a surprise for him to see her so interested in the small, usually quiet man. But there was no mistaking - she was interested.

At the moment Brian and Beth chatted while Rhett and Troy listened in.

"How's the job, Brian? You still at the elementary school?" Beth took another sip of her wine as she sat on the couch.

Brian nodded. "Yep. Still teaching the third graders." He eyed Beth. "How close are you, anyway? I know you were pretty deep into the program the last time we saw you."

"I'm done. I'm just waiting on the certification process."

"Oh, cool." Brian smiled at her. "It's such a relief, huh?"

"Well, it would be." With a shake of her head, Beth sighed. "All I can find is part-time work, even after I get certified." She laughed. "And you know as well as I do, part-time work on a teacher's salary isn't going to cut it."

Brian nodded. "Hrm. It's too bad you're not local." He shrugged. "It's not posted yet, but I know we're going to have a spot open up in a couple of months. Full time. It'll be for our first graders."

Beth stared at him. "Really?" He nodded, and she looked down at her wine glass.

Georgette cleared her throat, still parked in her armchair. Aaron made a face, but there was no stopping her this time. "What would it take for you to teach here, Beth?"

Beth considered as she looked at Georgette. "I'd have to be credentialed in Vermont."

"As credentialing goes, it's not bad," Brian said, and he rubbed his chin. "But, the school will want to hire someone who's going to stick around." He let the statement dangle there, a sly look on his face.

Noticing, Beth laughed. "I can't," she bit her lip, "I can't believe I'm considering this."

Brian took another sip. "What if I feel out the hiring committee? I've got a little pull, and I could find out if there is anybody else in line for the spot." He sighed. "Honestly, we're going to lose a couple of teachers in the next year or so to retirement. So we're scrambling a bit to fill the spots." He smiled, the expression a little devious. "Also, you'd be helping the school system check off their 'diversity requirement.'"

Laughing, Beth grinned at him. "What? There aren't already young black women all over the Barre school system?" She and Brian shared a chuckle, and she went back to looking down into the wine in her glass.

Troy was hopeful as she thought. He would love to have her close by. She was challenged by her family in Georgia. Not quite the same way as John has been, but she was far more liberal than her brothers and sisters, and she was vocal about it. It meant difficult times for the Erikson family and for her.

Then there was Rhett. The man sat very quietly next to Beth. He, too, stared down at his wine. He waited, just like the rest of them, for her response.

After a moment, Beth nodded slightly to herself. She looked up at Brian. "If you tell me there's a good chance of getting hired for the spot, full time, then I'll start working on credentialing." She shook her head. "I've got most of it handled already, I'm sure, thanks to doing it recently for Georgia. But, it all costs money. So I'm going to have to raise the cash first. Not sure I'll have time to get it done."

"How much?" Troy said before he even thought it through.

Brian smiled. "It's only two-hundred here, for the level one credential. Which is the one you'd need."

"What?!" Beth huffed a surprised breath. "Holy damnation." Her eyes shifted as she thought.

"I'll cover it," Troy said. Beth looked at him.

Before she could say anything, Grant piped up. "You can use this address for the credentialing. I'm sure you'll need a local one for it." Troy loved the dark-haired man, but at that moment his heart almost exploded with gratitude.

With an incredulous laugh, Beth leaned back to look up at the ceiling. "Oh my god." She bit her lip. "I can't believe this. I came here to see you, Troy." She sat back up. "And here you all are," she looked around the group, "just doin' what it is that you always do."

"Oh?" Smiling, Natalie easily and naturally rested her arm around Brian's broad shoulders. "And what is it that we always do?"

Beth chuckled. "You take care of each other, and me." She gazed at Troy. "And I've missed that - a lot."

Rhett stared at her. "So, you'll consider it? You're going to stay?"

She met Rhett's hopeful gaze with her own. "I will." She tilted her head and looked openly at Rhett. "I've got more than one reason to at least give it a shot."

Rhett flushed red then grinned and nodded. "Sounds good."

Beth laughed again, wildly happy. She held up her wine glass. "To crazy friends!"

Leaning forward, Troy and the group all touched glasses to echo her toast.

It's Thursday in a week that has felt ten days long so far. LOL.

Here's the next chapter of Ash and Ember. I hope you're all still enjoying the ride. We're nearly through it ... three more chapters after this one.

Let me know your thoughts on the work when you get a moment. I always appreciate that.

Copyright © 2020 Wayne Gray; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

14 minutes ago, chris191070 said:

Great chapter. A nice feel good chapter with no real drama. Just Beth arriving to see Troy and then meeting the rest of the gang, including Rhett, who Beth seems to fancy with the feelings reciprocated. Beth was talked into applying for a teaching job, which she's going to do as there is attractions and friends local.

I agree with your assessment of the chapter. I think the way that Beth and Rhett have become an item in just the first meeting of them. Who says love at first sight doesn’t exist is crazy. I’m glad that Beth is considering moving to Vermont to be able to get a full time job teaching since she can only get part time work at home. 

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21 minutes ago, Butcher56 said:

I agree with your assessment of the chapter. I think the way that Beth and Rhett have become an item in just the first meeting of them. Who says love at first sight doesn’t exist is crazy. I’m glad that Beth is considering moving to Vermont to be able to get a full time job teaching since she can only get part time work at home. 

Thanks for commenting, Butcher.

Sometimes we click, and we click fast. That seems to be happening for Rhett and Beth. Will it turn into anything? Time will tell. Oh, and chapters. Chapters will tell.

🙂

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When you said that Beth would check off a diversity box for the school district, I was trying to figure out why they categorize employees by US regional origin!
;–)

I had completely forgotten about John being African-American. With text, we can more easily become color-blind. In real life, it’s always there, just as we are aware of the hair color of the person you’re talking to. Even when skin color is just as insignificant to the two people as handedness.
;–)

Yeah, I went there. I might not be Black, but I am a Person of Color! I am aware that people immediately readjust their expectations when they realize I’m not white (as when I meet someone for the first time in person after communicating via phone or email).
;–)

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Is there a reason Troy and Grant haven't a new dining room table with more chairs or even more living room seating?  It sounds like the group is growing larger to eight persons.  Otherwise, it is a great story and I hope that it continues - like fostering or adopting a son!

 

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6 minutes ago, btowndude said:

Is there a reason Troy and Grant haven't a new dining room table with more chairs or even more living room seating?

If Troy had more spare time, he could make another chair or three… I don’t know about the style of the existing dining room set, but a dining bench or two might work too.
;–)

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2 hours ago, droughtquake said:

When you said that Beth would check off a diversity box for the school district, I was trying to figure out why they categorize employees by US regional origin!
;–)

I had completely forgotten about John being African-American. With text, we can more easily become color-blind. In real life, it’s always there, just as we are aware of the hair color of the person you’re talking to. Even when skin color is just as insignificant to the two people as handedness.
;–)

Yeah, I went there. I might not be Black, but I am a Person of Color! I am aware that people immediately readjust their expectations when they realize I’m not white (as when I meet someone for the first time in person after communicating via phone or email).
;–)

Yeah. Ethnicity is a “box” checked off in the minds of most. Beth definitely checks off the box for the school.

Thanks for the comments!

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I think I love all of your characters more with each new chapter.  I would really love to meet them all.  And , though I rarely use the word, Rhett is just adorable.   Thank you for this journey.  I'm loving it.

 

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21 minutes ago, btowndude said:

Is there a reason Troy and Grant haven't a new dining room table with more chairs or even more living room seating?  It sounds like the group is growing larger to eight persons.  Otherwise, it is a great story and I hope that it continues - like fostering or adopting a son!

 

Hi, and thanks for the comment!

For Troy there’s a lot of sentimental value in that meager little table and three remaining chairs. Could they add? Yes. But, they rather like the informality of how they’ve got to cobble things together. It’s just how they prefer.

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57 minutes ago, Quixo said:

I think I love all of your characters more with each new chapter.  I would really love to meet them all.  And , though I rarely use the word, Rhett is just adorable.   Thank you for this journey.  I'm loving it.

 

Ah, I’m really happy you find them so engaging.

Rhett is adorable! He’s shy, smart, lacking in some confidence, maybe ... but he’s a sweet, wonderful person.  It’s great that you’re a fan!

Thank you for the comments!

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In the midst of tonight's reading and insightful discussion, it occurred to me how much more comfortable and supportive these stories can be "the second time around".  In more normal times the reading and discussions are a great place to join in a couple times a week, but in times when institutions we had largely counted on being equal to challenges are barely able to cope with demands what goes on here can serve as a reminder that well-intentioned intelligent people can work together to accomplish what needs to be done and keep life moving forward.

Tom

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9 hours ago, Hawgdad said:

In the midst of tonight's reading and insightful discussion, it occurred to me how much more comfortable and supportive these stories can be "the second time around".  In more normal times the reading and discussions are a great place to join in a couple times a week, but in times when institutions we had largely counted on being equal to challenges are barely able to cope with demands what goes on here can serve as a reminder that well-intentioned intelligent people can work together to accomplish what needs to be done and keep life moving forward.

Tom

Thanks, Tom.

I hear you. It's nice to escape for a little while in reading, and for me in responding to everyone. GA is nice, in that these comments are possible. It's a really effective way of responding and understanding readers - and I'm sure it works the other way around too.

We're all leaning on whatever we can to cope with this thing. If GA, my writing, and the other readers help get through it, then that's wonderful. I know readers help me. The last chapter I posted, I was just overwhelmed, and I couldn't reply to anything. But, I read all the comments. I loved each of them, but I just couldn't spend more mental energy responding.

I'm feeling better now and have the last few days. Being here helps.

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10 hours ago, yarameb said:

Fantastic chapter, thank you

Thanks, yarameb.

It's wonderful when people like the stories, so I appreciate your comment. 🙂

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3 more chapters and then book 2 right ? right your not going to disappoint us now are you ?

All joking aside another great chapter and well worth reading again 

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3 hours ago, mrbossmant said:

3 more chapters and then book 2 right ? right your not going to disappoint us now are you ?

 

^This. Maybe not right away, but don't dismiss the possibility. I can see lots more developments and adventures for this group.  As always @Wayne Gray, another excellent chapter. Take care and be well.  We all are doing our best to cope during this difficult time, but your writing makes it a lot more bearable for many of us.  

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If Grant & Troy were ever to meet Greg and his Camp Refuge, you’d be able to fulfill two wishes with one story. Their neighbors at the campground could be visiting from Kentucky too. But the bear should remain the scariest possibility for wildlife interactions, please! Write efficiently.
;–)

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I feel blessed to have a wonderful group of friends. Mostly people I have worked with and their spouses. This group of friends continually warm my heart with their care and support of each other. After "meeting" Grant's parents, it was a pleasant surprise to meet Beth, and get a little more insight into John's family. You do such a great job with your dialogue! I can feel the friendship and love as they interact. Thank you.

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Well Wayne you present a great diversion for all of us!  You enable us to distance ourselves from the realities of today and live vicariously in the great stories you portray.  You have no idea how much you help me maintain some sense of normalcy! My hat is truly off to you. 

To you and your partner - stay safe!!

David

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